The Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area is one of 674 designated State Natural Areas in Wisconsin, and together they comprise 380,000 acres of some of the most beautiful and treasured lands in the state. Working at The Fen was a natural progression from working across the street at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and having an eye for buckthorn.
For a comprehensive history of the area I highly recommend Robert Duerwachter’s excellent books THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG, and The Tibby Line. Pick up your copies, while they last, at the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit headquarters because these wonderful historical references are out-of-print (Robert may have a few left). Here are some historical views of the territory.
1836 Survey Map (Ben Johnson, SEWRPC Land Survey Assistant)
1836 Survey Notes (per Ben “Here’s as far back as we’ll ever get, 1836. The Section corners that match our other maps are in red. The surveyors found marsh, brooks, and oaks. A few grassy areas. The last statement says they found grapes and other vines?
I don’t think the Fen and Lake were separate entities until the canals were dug. The water level must have dropped and now we have a shallow wetland separating the two areas. Our beloved tamarack grove probably didn’t exist.”
The perspective circa 1892 (provided by Ben Johnson).
Silver Lake in 1937. Notice the different layout of drainage canals from that depicted in the map below (thanks Ben).
The Ottawa Lake Fen 1970. It is possible that the distinction between the fen and the lake was caused by the drainage canals diverting water to the south, away from the lake.
The management approach decided in 1975 was to “maintain area in wild condition”.
Evidence of the drainage systems created to farm the land west of Ottawa Lake and The Fen? Remember, the map is not the territory.
The Fen — 2013
Scroll a little north in the map above and drill into the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA. At the maximum zoom you can identify some of the drainage ditches identified above.
I began working on the oak studded hillside between the east shore of Ottawa Lake and the campground in the Fall of 2013, and eventually made it all the way around to Tamarack Bog on the northwest side of The Fen. Here is chronological timeline of The Buckthorn Man’s adventures at Ottawa Lake:
First camping trip at My Shangri-La
Second camping trip at My Shangri-La
Piling brush below campsite #335
Buckthorn clearing and Geo-Engineering
Buckthorn clearing with Dick Jenks near the handicap cabin
Cleaning up near the cabin
Cutting buckthorn beneath the massive oaks at the south end of the campgrounds
Clearing below campsite #380
Jared Urban and Nate Fayram from the NDR’s Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation visit The Springs and The Fen
Dr. Dan Carter, from SEWRPC visits The Springs and The Fen
The Buckthorn Man returns to Shangri-La
Andy Buchta piles buckthorn
The Buckthorn Man explores the springs that feed Ottawa Lake
Starting to clear the Tamarack Bog on the north side of The Fen
The Kettle Moraine Land Stewards join the party
KMLS help The Buckthorn Man clearing northeast side of The Fen
The Buckthorn Man learns a little of the history of The Fen
Brush pile burning on the east side of The Fen
Deep into the Tamarack Bog on the northwest side of The Fen
The last visit to the Tamarack Bog with Ben and Andy
The Buckthorn Man and Lindsay Knudsvig finish the east slope of Ottawa Lake
So, where are we at now?
The Buckthorn Man’s right hand is almost healed from surgery for Dupuytren’s Contracture (no, not caused by cutting buckthorn) and he’s chomp’in at the bit to get back to work. The exciting news is that Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, who now works for the Wisconsin DNR has submitted a new North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant request for the Ottawa Lake and Ottawa Lake Fen SNA areas. Here is a picture of the proposal.
Ben Johnson and Lindsay Knudsvig have joined The Buckthorn Man in making a commitment to work on the project to generate matching funds for the grant. We should know by early Spring 2016 whether or not the grant has been awarded. I hope you will see the value of working at the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area with us — there is still a ton of work to do out there! Please visit the Volunteer page to learn more about how to volunteer with The Buckthorn Man and Contact me!
Crossing The Fen
View from site #334
Sunset over The Fen
View from north side of Fen
Buckthorn thicket “before”
Nothing like a buckthorn fire on a chilly night!
Ottawa Lake Sunsets
The Fen from site #334
Geo-Engineering The Fen
Buckthorn thicket on east slope above Fen
Northeast side of Ottawa Lake
View to north from handicap cabin deck
View of Ottawa Lake from handicap cabin deck
Huge oak at south end of campground
Buckthorn surround huge oak
Huge oak cleared!
Campsite views opened up…
View from fishing pier near boat launch area
Spring feeding The Fen
Dr. Dan Carter
Yeah, I love sunsets…
The beach at Ottawa Lake
Spring feeding The Fen
Halloween pumpkin carving at Ottawa Lake campground
Poison Sumac! Watch out.
Springs feed The Fen
Vintage early 70’s buckthorn
Northeast side of The Fen
View from north side of Fen
East slope above Fen
The view of The Fen from campsite #334
Walking across The Fen to the Tamarack Bog
Glossy Buckthron amongst the Tamarack
The view from campsite #334
Chris at Ottawa Lake
The North side of Ottawa Lake
clearing buckthorn from these Tamarack groves.
We spent a lot of time last Winter…
The pond at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA
Tamaracks on the west side of the fen
Keeping the home fires burning